The Senate voted last week to put an anti-immigrant seventy-one year old policy to rest. Thankfully, the death of a spouse will no longer result in deportation of a widow and the widower’s children. According to Voto Latino:
The death of a spouse will no longer result in automatic deportation of widows and widowers and their children, following a historic vote in the Senate today. Ending a policy traced back at least seventy-one years, Congress has abolished the “widow penalty.” Thanks to a concerted effort by families, legal counsel and legislators over a period of more than five years, a horrible practice that added insult to injury is now at an end.
The fact that this policy could have even existed is absurd, much less the fact that it existed for this long. According to Voto Latino, the “widow penalty” was a tragic quirk in federal law that unfairly punished recently married immigrants whose citizen spouses die before their green-card paperwork is processed. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that their hands were tied. According to the law if a person’s spouse dies before their petition for a green card has been handled and the marriage is less than two years old then the surviving spouse “ceases to be a spouse.” So as if the heartache and stress these families face wasn’t enough, now they must go back where they came from? For years advocates for shattered families and the families themselves have fought to change this policy with no luck. The Senate stepped up last week and voted 79 to 19, passing the bill by a significant margin, and President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern